Defining Art Within the Catlin Gabel Community

By Solomon Hammerly

Catlin Gabel School, Catlin Speak

Because there are multiple genres and variants of art, and it appears to be such a vast, broad subject, what constitutes as art? Visual art comes immediately to mind, with paintings, sculptures, and other visual art forms helping to create an image that could be left up to the viewer for interpretation, while newer forms of art such as cinema have paved the way for audio-visual and sensory media to gain respect as an art form. This is true even among those who could have seen it merely as trivial entertainment in the past century. Nonetheless, there are several similarities in what qualifies as an “art” between our country and our own community.

Within the Catlin Gabel community, these vast arrays of arts are apparent as well. Course offerings range from Ceramics and Genres in visual arts, to performing arts such as choir and acting. Some even overlap with history-credited classes like New Media Studies.

Catlin Gabel Upper School art teacher Nancy Leonhardt, spoke to CatlinSpeak regarding more advanced and technological forms of art, such as film, in the Catlin Gabel community.

“Arts, like many other subjects, are going through a shift in terms of what exactly art is and who is valid as a creator of art, which is linked to the advent of YouTube/Do-it-yourself culture. In the past with different types of art, you would need to have a ‘master’ teach you techniques to demonstrate your art” commented Leonhardt.

Leonhardt explained that she believed it likely that Media Arts could have been introduced as a discipline prior to when she joined the school in 2007. She stated that “The shift in time between analog and digital filmmaking” helped not only the industry based on film to flourish, but also for it to be recognized as an art form that could eventually become a discipline.

This process took a long period of planning and thus was introduced to the Catlin Gabel community only recently; the school was mindful in considering applying visual art to their learning curriculums.

Leonhardt comments, “To me, there’s art and there are artifacts. Art means something that is alive, meaning paintings are alive because it occupies space and time. People are engaged with it and look at it. Artifacts are for example photographs or even film while it’s just sitting there on your computer, but once the audience is engaged with it, that’s when it becomes art.”

While not many generalizations can be drawn purely from the term “art”, it can be said that the classification of visual arts is subjective and does not always share the same designation as creative or performing arts, demonstrated by Leonhardt’s distinction between “art” and “artifact.”

Catlin Gabel strives to incorporate art into their school life and not to treat it as if it has any necessary intellectual purpose, but to help engage students in a more subjective matter of expression.

Could art be infused with academic life? To some degree it can, as certain “intellectual” classes at Catlin Gabel such as New Media Studies can be given an art credit in some circumstances. Because of this, the line is blurred between art and academic properties.

When broken down, “academics” at Catlin Gabel intend to produce “bold learners” and bold thinkers, which can be produced through an expression of art.

About Grace Masback

Grace Masback, 17, aspires to give voice to the voiceless and holds the modest ambition of becoming the voice of Gen Z. Frustrated by the dearth of impactful platforms for teen journalists, she founded WANT, a news, sports, and entertainment website that aggregates the best in high school journalism from school newspapers and teen bloggers around the world (

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